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GoogleX to circle the Earth with Internet-connected balloons

Sharon Gaudin | Sept. 24, 2014
Astro Teller takes Google's plans aloft to bring Internet connectivity to remote areas.

That's not a lot of bandwidth access, according to Olds.

"The issue is how many people can you support with a balloon?" he said. "With Skype, through compression and stuff, their minimum recommendation for a video call is 1.5 Mb/sec both ways, so one balloon could handle three or four video calls."

Olds also noted that at the low end -- using the most efficient codec, packet size, etc. -- operators might be able to manage 6.3Kbps per voice call. That means a balloon could support 100 calls at a time, maybe.

However, for people who want basic Internet access -- sending and receiving email, reading online news and even downloading e-books -- the balloons should provide reasonable access.

"Yes, it would be fine for that, but the real question is how many people want to do it at the same time?" questioned Olds. "Even 100 people will see some problems if they all try to download stuff at the same time. It's a tough technical problem for sure."


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